Outgoing President Barack Obama denied that he underestimated Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2012 when he mocked GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for saying Russia was the country’s major enemy in the world.
“I don’t think I underestimated him,” Obama said in an interview airing Sunday on ABC’s “The Week.”
“But I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation for cyber hacking and so forth to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.”
Obama came into office hoping to reset relations with Putin, but has spent the past months directly accusing him of meddling with the U.S. presidential elections by hacking both the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton chief of staff John Podesta’s emails in order to boost Donald Trump’s chances of winning last November. Obama said the lack of worry about the hacking from some Republicans concerned him.
“One of the things that I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there were, there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seemed to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans were Democrats,” he said. “That cannot be.”
Asked if that group included Trump, Obama didn’t directly answer the question.
“We have to remind ourselves we’re on the same team,” he said. “Vladimir Putin’s not on our team. If we get to a point where people in this country feel more affinity with a leader who is an adversary and view the United States and our way of life as a threat to him, then we’re gonna have bigger problems than just cyber hacking.”